Director: León Klimovsky
Cast: Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Patty Shepard, Andrés Resino, Yelena Samarina, José Marco
Length: 95 min
Disks: 2 (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Label: Subkultur Entertainment
Release Date: Nov 22, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Spanish, German: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, German (optional)
- Alternative Spanish version without nudity (92 min)
- Paul Naschy: Interview with the Werewolf (14:52 min)
- Interview with Gaby Fuchs (9:24 min)
- Errinerungen an León Klimovsky – Interviews (4:36 min)
- Super-8 version (32:48 min)
- International opening and closing credits (7:22 min)
- Photo gallery
- German Trailer (3:12 min)
- US Trailer (3:13 Min)
- TV Spot (1 Min)
- 12-page booklet with an essay by Ángel Gómez Rivero
When it comes to vintage Spanish horror, one name reigns supreme. The inimitable Paul Naschy, aka Jacinto Molina Alvarez, aka The Spanish Lon Chaney; undisputed genre king. With such a prolific catalogue of genre films, it would be difficult to argue otherwise—the star working on over 100 films as an actor, as well as directing and writing many titles during his lengthy career. For such an important name in cult-horror the work of the star has been sadly, largely, absent from the realm of restoration to Blu-ray—a state of affairs that has proven frustrating to his devoted fans. So it is with some anticipation, but will little fanfare, that last month, German label Subkultur Entertainment took an all important step towards meeting this need, by putting out one of Naschy’s finest moments on a limited edition (English friendly) Blu-ray: La Noche de Walpurgis, aka Die Nacht der Vampire, aka The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971).
Paul Naschy returns in his fourth outing for his iconic lycanthrope, Waldemar Daninsky, in one of the definite highlights of the extensive series. This time, the cursed Daninsky lives with his sister Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) in a remote rented country house. The siblings having escaped their previous home when Daninsky was shot with silver bullets and killed, when in wolf form, by angry locals. But a doctor, in an attempt to quell superstitious beliefs and prove the dead stay dead, removes the bullets from the corpse, resurrecting the wolf and ensuring that the curse will continue. Daninsky’s new family home is not without its own problems—having once housed the infamous vampire witch Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard, in a nod to the legendary Countess Bathory). When two young ladies—Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and Genevieve (Barbara Capell)—arrive looking for Nadasdy’s tomb, Daninsky offers to help, giving the two women a place to stay and assisting them in opening the grave of the abominable vamp to see if they can find her remains. Naturally, this results in devastation for all involved, as if the fact that Daninsky turns into a murderous beast on each full moon wasn’t devastating enough.Director León Klimovsky (The Vampires’ Night Orgy) stepped in to helm this installment. His contribution to the production not only ensured highly atmospheric results, but represented the beginning of a notable period for the director and his lead actor Naschy. The two went on to collaborate in horror together throughout the seventies. The fruits of this union turned out some of Klimovsky’s and Naschy’s best work—the Spanish giallo A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1974), the bonkers Naschy/Jack Taylor Wolfman entrant Dr Jekyll and the Werewolf (1971), and the curious post-apocalyptic The People Who Own the Dark (1976), to name a few. All of the Klimovsky/Naschy projects are worthwhile, with La Noche de Walpurgis being widely considered one of their best. There is a fantastic creative energy apparent here that demonstrates the strong working relationship the director had with his leading man. Far from ever overstating his point, Klimovsky allows the narrative to drive home those fantastic moments of both tension and atmosphere at a natural pace that never feels forced. The film straddles both traditional and contemporary horror in a way that many other directors of the time tried and failed to achieve; loading up on both traditional opulent gothic sensibilities and seventies lurid charm. From slow motion dreamy vampettes gliding through fogged-up graveyards, to lesbian undertones and grizzly blood and gore, the emphasis on both danger and eroticism lurks in every frame; the twinning of sexuality and primal violence bubbling together to create a heady brew of prime Euro-cult horror. Naschy wrote the script, here returning to some of the ideas he used in his Daninsky debut, La Marca del Hombre-Lobo aka Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1968)—namely the meshing of monster themes in pitting vampires against Naschy’s doomed werewolf. Not just vampires, but witchy/satanic/magical vampires—nothing can be straightforward in a Naschy script! It is not surprising that the actor would return to the themes that had most inspired him throughout his writing. Naschy has stated in interviews the first horror film he ever watched at the tender age of eight was Lon Chaney Jr’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Such was the impression it made, the actor harnessed a lifelong love for the genre, honouring that tradition in his own films by demonstrating his penchant for crazy monster mash-ups. You have to hand it to him; not everyone could get away with it, but Naschy could. Even though the actual situations in his films frequently prove ludicrous, there is so much love for the genre evident that a lot can be forgiven. Interestingly, La Noche de Walpurgis, despite its scandalous American title of The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman, contains one of the less over-the-top monsters, compared with some of the aliens, mad scientists, and yetis of Naschy’s other Wolf Man films. Even though his character and settings change, Naschy is always essentially ‘Naschy,’ playing his titular role throughout the series, usually with a great deal of gusto. The star made the perfect anti-hero and like his predecessor, Lon Chaney Jr., was an actor who was able to remain sympathetic even when playing a dangerous character. This wasn’t just true of his Wolf Man incarnations, but the tragic circumstances of lycanthropy did help his case when it came to these roles in particular. As with most of the other entries in the series, here again Daninsky is a doomed individual from the start. We as an audience already anticipate what will go down; the pleasure is in watching Naschy pull another rabbit out of his hat in his ability to make you care about his character. The transformation scenes are particularly ferocious here, with the wolf foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth, featuring some of the best examples of effects work from the many times that Naschy would play The Wolf Man. He is also impressive in the sheer rabid primal energy in beast form that he conveys, making him a worthy contender to battle the venomous vampire Wandesa in that all-important Werewolf Versus… final showdown. When it comes to the rest of the cast, as always, Naschy finds himself up against some beautiful female co-stars. This time placed amongst a very female-centric supporting cast—Barbara Capell, Gaby Fuchs, and Patty Shepard—and this in turn imbibes the film with a strong feminine energy. Capell and Shepard amp up the sex factor conveying vampires as sexual predators, while Fuchs adequately fills the shoes as Naschy’s all-important love interest Elvira.
La Noche de Walpurgis was hugely successful, not just in terms of popularity but it also proved to be a very lucrative project. The film managed to rake it in from the International box offices, breaking that all important Atlantic divide. So successful, in fact, that Naschy credited the film as being pivotal in not only establishing his career, but in inspiring the Spanish film industry to make more horror films they could export. This makes La Noche de Walpurgis a pinnacle film in helping to establish such a strongly creative era in Spanish genre filmmaking. For this, and for its potent, otherworldly atmosphere, the film is essential viewing for anyone with more than a passing interest in seventies cult Euro-horror.
For American Naschy enthusiasts who know La Noche de Walpurgis from washed-out VHS editions, or even from Anchor Bay’s old DVD, this new Blu-ray release from Subkultur Entertainment will come as a revelation! The most notable aspect here is the respectful restoration. The print retains its feel of cinematic splendour including a strong filmic texture and visible grain. The result is not without the odd flicker, a crackle of dust, or occasional white specs, and nor should it be. As such, this presentation allows the film to carry its glorious seventies Euro-cult tonal quality and doesn’t look overly polished. In fact, there are no visible traces of edge sharpening or DNR filtering. The other notable aspect of this restoration is how striking the detail and image depth are, as is the saturation of the colours—now perfectly balanced and vibrant. This also serves to give the film a more serious feel. Now, with the benefit of high-definition, you can really get an idea of what the director was going for, while the above-average Gothic production values can finally be enjoyed in their full glory.
Two, no frills, mono tracks are provided: German and Spanish. They both sound crystal clear and free from any distracting flaws. Having the original Spanish audio—with optional English subtitles—will again come as a revelation to English-speaking fans who have only experienced this film with the rather cheesy and stilted English dub. The Spanish track benefits the film hugely, and takes it into the realm of a more serious horror film. The clarity of sound also helps to showcase the, at times, jarring soundtrack by Antón García Abril that establishes the mood perfectly. Ideally, for completeness sake, the English dub should have been included too, but once you start watching the film in Spanish, it becomes hard to imagine watching it any other way.
Subkultur Entertainment provides some nice extra features, some of which are English-friendly.
Firstly, we are given a full-length alternative Spanish version of the film; the so-called “clothed version.” It’s basically the same film, minus the nudity, and shortened by a few minutes. It’s an interesting inclusion, but I wonder how many fans would really want to see it, when they have the full, uncut film as the main feature.
Next, we have a 15-minute documentary, Paul Naschy: Interview with the Werewolf, produced in 2002 by Blue Underground. This is in Spanish with optional English subtitles, and is based around an interview that Mike Hodges conducted with Naschy. The actor goes into detail about his life and career, his relationship with León Klimovsky and his most enduring creation, the character Waldemar Daninsky. The film features many archival photos and footage from Naschy’s films.
Next, we have a 9-minute interview with actress Gaby Fuchs, but this is in German only, with no subtitles.
Next, we have a 5-minute documentary, Errinerungen an León Klimovsky, which is based around two interviews with Paul Naschy and veteran cult actor Jack Taylor. Both actors recount their experiences of working with director León Klimovsky. Naschy speaks in German, while Taylor speaks in English. There are no English subtitles, so English-speaking viewers will only understand Taylor’s half of the footage, which is still quite interesting.
For the rest of the extras, we are given a condensed Super-8 version of the film; International opening and closing credits; a photo gallery; German and American trailers; a TV spot; and a 12-page booklet with an essay by Ángel Gómez Rivero.
A must for all fans of Naschy, this is a fantastic Blu-ray edition of some prime vintage Euro-horror. Subkultur-Entertainment have produced a worthy package, befitting the film’s status as a cult epic. As this release is limited to 1500 copies, those who want to acquire it should run, not walk, to their nearest computer and order a copy before they start selling on Amazon from third-party sellers for bizarre sums of money.